9 Good Reasons Why It’s Okay to Cry When You Leave Your Child at College

I look over my desk, littered with photos and snippets of colored paper. Smiling flat faces peer at me from glossy photos, one dimensional images of 3-d moments filled with life. I’m trying to finish a scrapbook for my daughter before she leaves for college. Mom confession here, my goal was to have it ready for her high school graduation.

9 Reasons Why It's Okay to Cry When You Leave Your Child at College

 

Didn’t  happen.

I wonder why I have procrastinated finishing this gift  for my girl.

Sunlight streams in the window as understanding dawns. Tucked behind good intentions and worthy goals is that part of my heart that doesn’t want to let go. There have been many goodbyes this year. In January, one daughter left for two years in Australia. A few days ago our son came home for a quick visit before loading up to move away to grad school.

I have put off completing this task because it is a marker of the end of days of children living at home.

9 Reasons Why It's Okay to Cry When You Leave Your Child at College

These photos are reminders of years flown by too fast. Tangible proof that life as I know it is changing.

This may seem silly, but emotions don’t always make sense. For the first time in twenty-two years, I won’t take a first-day-of-school picture. The one with the new shoes and smiling faces full of excitement for a new year.

Tomorrow we’ll load the car and move our youngest to college. After meeting the roommate, we’ll help unpack, run to the store for forgotten items, give last bits of advice, take lots of pictures, and hug good bye.

We won’t want to let go, but we will.

Will tears flow? Not sure, but if today is any indication, there will probably be a few.

Or a lot.

9 Reasons Why It's Okay to Cry When You Leave Your Child at College

 

To my children, scattered far and wide, here’s a look at why it’s hard to say goodbye when you leave. 

  1. Even though you are taller than we are now, it’s hard to believe you’ve grown up so fast. Taking you to college is stepping into that reality. No longer is “going to college” some vague mist of an idea far off in the future. The future is now. We’ve known your move in date for months, but what the head knows doesn’t always translate to the heart.

 

  1. The house will feel different now. The sounds, activities, and energy will change. At first, we’ll balk at the empty echo in the house, much like how sound changes when you take a carpet out of a room.  For a little while, that hollow sound will have a feeling that sits uneasy on our hearts. We won’t like the empty place at the table and the unused smell in your room. We will adjust and life is still very good, but it will take some time let go.

 

  1. This is the beginning of a new season that will catapult you into your own life as an adult. In just a short time home will be a place you visit rather than live. That’s a hard thought for a mom to get used to. And dads.

 

  1. You won’t be part of our daily life anymore. Phone calls are good, and social media is nice, but it isn’t the same as sharing life face to face. The main part of your life won’t include our daily presence. This is as it should be, but it’s still an emotional hurdle to leap.

 

  1. We love you and will miss your beautiful smile and all the special things that make you, you. You are a joy in our lives and in some ways, we’ve come to depend on you, comfortable in our roll as moms. Though we have our own lives, mom has become both a roll and an identity. As we open our hearts to let you go, we have some new growing to do ourselves.

 

  1. We are proud of you. Some of these tears are excitement for the new friends and experiences you will have. The new things you’ll learn. We will watch from afar as you gain confidence and knowledge as you prepare for your future. You’ll l come home for Christmas, exhausted from exams. As you unload a car full of dirty laundry, you will walk in the house with a new maturity.

 

  1. We know we won’t be there on the days when you’re lonely or discouraged. We know you will learn to navigate problems and challenges, but sometimes this will be a struggle. This is a necessary part of growing up, but we don’t want you to have to face the hard days on your own. We want to be there to encourage you and cheer you on.

 

  1. We’ll have to get used to going to sleep without knowing you’re safely tucked in your bed at home. We’re moms and we’ve mastered the art of worrying. For so long, we’ve slept lightly, or stayed awake until you’re home.

 

  1. For parents, leaving for college feels like an ending before it feels like a beginning. We know you’re ready, but we’re not quite sure how to let you go. We’ll have to figure that out step by step over the next few months.

We have survived the teen years and are now launching  young adults. We will adjust, and it won’t be as hard as it feels at this moment. But these are a few of the reasons mom’s shed a few tears when we leave our kids at college.

Oh, and one more thing what can make a parent cry when kids head to college–the college tuition bill!

What makes you emotional when your kid’s leave?

This post is inspired by my life situation and this post from Flown and Grown.

Do you struggle with negative thinking? Enjoy this devotional guide to overcoming negative thinking.

Other posts on kid’s growing up and leaving home:

Powerful Truth Gives Direction For Our Children

Letting Them Go: Faith Prayers For Our Children

Getting Ready For College: Don’t Let Worries Rob You of Joy

Linking today with: Coffee for Your Heart,  #TellHisStory, Grace and Truth, Faith-Filled Friday, and  Faith n’ Friends.

 

10 Comments

  1. Ginger, your words have really captured a mama’s heart including this mama. I still have 1 adult son at home because he has MD, but all my others have essentially left, though one may come back for a few months to save some money.

    We do have to let them go, and it is hard, but it is the right thing. I’m comforted to know that God is with them always. I need to learn to trust Him more.

    Blessings to you! I’m your neighbor at #CoffeeforYourHeart.

    • Ginger Harrington

      Thanks so much for visiting, Gayl. You are so right about letting our children go being the right thing. Right doesn’t equal easy, but it is a comfort to know that God is working in their lives. I’m excited to see what God will be doing in the years to come.

  2. Oh, Ginger! So sweet! Truly, a mamma’s heart here. I’m a few years from this, but I feel the pull!

    • Ginger Harrington

      I know there are many parents going through this new season of life. And though it is emotional, it’s also exciting. I am looking forward to new things God is doing. Blessings, Friend!

  3. So I’m not the only one? This is reassuring. Actually I’m doing better than I expected to be doing. Last year, sending him to school from Dallas was like a practice run for being half-way across the world like we are now. But that facetime yesterday sure helped. :

    • Ginger Harrington

      Being able to facetime with my girl in Australia narrows the distance. Such a blessing to be able to do that. When we lived in Japan, families with college students experience this same distance when their kids went back to the states for school. Praying for God’s protection and blessing for your student!

  4. Ginger, this is so sweet. #9 especially. Be brave, mama! You’ve got this.

    • Ginger Harrington

      Yes, we’re doing it! A bit of an emotional rollercoaster at times, but at the end of the day I am simply grateful for what God is doing in my kids’ lives!

  5. Oh, my heart. There are so many of these post right now and they make me want to hug my 13 year old and make him promise never to leave me. But these first 13 years have been a blink and I know the next 5 will fly by. You’ve encouraged me to savor these moments and remember how precious they are. Big hugs to you, mama – and praying for your heart to find it’s new rhythm.

    • Ginger Harrington

      Thanks, Tiffany. You’re right, these years will go quickly, but at God’s perfect pace. These are exciting years of watching our kids come into their own. God has wonderful things in store for you in the high school years. And He has wonderful things in store for those of us who have just emptied the nest!

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